Kenya: Parents pay for education with the fruit of their labours (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| September 9, 2013

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In 2009, John Kyuva Muthiani realized something had to change. Mr. Kyuva farms in the semi-arid Yatta District of Machakos County in eastern Kenya. Local experts were predicting that rains in the area would fail for years to come.

So Mr. Kyuva approached Jackson Wambua, a local agricultural extension officer. The officer advised him that fruit trees, especially orange and mango, can survive and even thrive in semi-arid areas. He helped Mr. Kyuva establish an orange farm. Mr. Kyuva got seedlings from the local nursery of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and planted more than fifty orange trees. He also planted mango trees.

Now, the oranges and mangoes are doing well and have become a major source of income for Mr. Kyuva.

In 2010, Mr. Kyuva’s eldest son completed his primary education. He wanted to continue with secondary school, but his father could not afford the fees. So Mr. Kyuva decided to talk with the secondary school principal.

Mr. Kyuva remembers, “I talked to [the principal] and asked him if I could provide the school with oranges to be fed to the students.”

Peter Mbuva is the school principal. He believes that feeding students is an essential aspect of education, because no student can listen to a teacher on an empty stomach. Mr. Mbuva says: “The school has a population of around 300 students [who] get their meals from school. In order to feed the students, we have to get the supplies from farmers and parents.”

The principal agreed that Mr. Kyuva could supply 285 oranges to the school three times a week. The school pays him 10 Kenyan shillings per orange, so Mr. Kyuva receives 8,550 Kenyan shillings ($98 US) every week. When the orange harvest is complete, the mangoes are ready. Mr. Kyuva supplies the school with fruit throughout the school term.

Local authorities, including the Ministry of Education, are encouraging schools to let parents pay fees with cereals, fruits and vegetables in lieu of cash. This arrangement enables Mr. Kyuva to pay his fees on time. Other parents supply maize, beans or vegetables. But others have had to sell land or livestock to raise school fees.

Josephat Mbete is a parent whose children are still at primary school, which is free in Kenya. Parents such as Mr. Mbete sell their produce to the secondary school and are paid in cash. Mr. Mbete is saving his earnings until his children are old enough to attend secondary school.